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Jack Nicklaus to introduce his own brand of golf balls

By Dave Shedloski

Jack Nicklaus has played enough different brands of golf balls, tested them enough and talked about them enough to determine he could build his own ball. And he's decided to do just that.

blog-jack-nicklaus2-0930.jpgGolf World has learned that Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 professional major championships, is introducing a line of golf balls starting in November with the objective of helping golfers select a ball that best matches their skill level. Three balls will be available: Nicklaus Black, Nicklaus Blue and Nicklaus White, corresponding to the tee markers from which golfers regularly play. The Nicklaus Black is designed for the single-digit handicap golfer who might typically play from the back tees. The Nicklaus Blue is for players who use middle teeing areas, while the Nicklaus White is for higher handicap players, either men or women, who play from forward tees.

Related: Golf balls reviewed in Golf Digest's Hot List

In the past, Nicklaus has lent his name to signature brands of golf balls, but the new Nicklaus line is proprietary, manufactured to his specifications after three years of testing. Nicklaus said Bridgestone is manufacturing the balls and counseled on its design.

A percentage of sales will be donated to the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation, which Nicklaus and his wife, Barbara, established in 2004 to support pediatric programs nationwide.

"We all know that the game of golf can be challenging enough, so we are trying to simplify the decision-making process of selecting the right golf ball and at the same time provide consumers the highest-quality golf balls and at a price that encourages charitable support," Nicklaus, 73, and winner of 73 PGA Tour titles, said in a statement. "By buying these balls, players will get the added benefit of supporting these wonderful charities that help children in need as well as the families that dearly love them."

The balls, which go into production within the next few weeks, will be sold online at www.nicklaus.com and through golf shops at more than 200 courses in the Nicklaus Design portfolio. The Nicklaus Black will have a suggested retail price around $50 per dozen in pro shops, while the Nicklaus Blue and Nicklaus White models will be priced in the mid-$40s. Online shoppers can purchase the balls for $32 and $26, respectively, with the option of adding a donation earmarked for the Nicklaus Children's Health Care Foundation.

"For more than three years, we have contemplated entering the golf ball business, so over that time, I have been researching and testing golf balls," said Nicklaus, who has been a proponent for growing the game through the First Tee, Tee It Forward and other initiatives. "There are a lot of very good balls on the market, but I was not able to find a ball that fully met my expectations and hopes -- not just for me or other professionals, but more importantly, for the everyday golfer. So I simply decided not to enter the business until I found that ball. Well, I found that ball. Actually, I found three.

"These golf balls are designed for every level of play, from the everyday or recreational golfer -- be it men, women, children, or seniors -- to the tour professional. No matter the age or ability, there is a golf ball to fit your game. Our strategy is based on a simple principle: skill level is an extremely important factor when selecting the right golf ball. From the tees you play, we know your swing speed; this is paramount when choosing a golf ball. But no matter the percentage of players who know their swing speed, 100 percent of them know the tees they play."

The introduction of a Nicklaus-designed ball is the latest venture with Nicklaus Companies co-chairman Howard Milstein, New York Private Bank & Trust Chairman and CEO, with whom Nicklaus partnered in 2007. "The beauty of these balls," Milstein said, "is they solve the golfers' dilemma of which ball to play -- all you need to know is the tee you play from -- and no matter what your skill level, you know we've designed the highest quality golf ball best suited to your game."

Related: How to find the right ball for you

For more than three decades Nicklaus has been outspoken about calling for golf's governing bodies to rein in the distance that modern golf balls travel. The extra distance makes golf more expensive through additional land, water usage and maintenance costs. He remains consistent on the subject.

"The game of golf is a lot bigger than any individual or any individual piece of it," Nicklaus said. "My position hasn't changed in relation to the golf ball. What's important is what's best for the game of golf.

"This is another way for me to contribute to the game of golf in a positive way and to help grow the game," the Golden Bear added. "It's about helping the average golfer enjoy the game more. The average golfer has to make up his mind whether he wants to hit it as far as he can or get the results that he wants around the greens. He really can't have both with today's balls. What we are offering them is a chance to play the best ball they can get that will give them the most distance, the most playability, and the most control for their swing speed."

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News & Tours

Video: John Daly hits a golf ball off of a guy's face

By Alex Myers

The March 2011 cover of Golf Digest had an image of Graeme McDowell about to hit a golf ball off a tee in Rory McIlroy's mouth and had the headline "How to Play Fearless Golf." Perhaps John Daly is taking our magazine's advice a bit too literally.

Related: Golf's greatest power hitters

An Instagram video has surfaced in which Daly pulled off the feat in a Nashville parking lot. A stranger apparently volunteered to lay down and be the pro despite the fact that it was dark out and Daly was wearing sandals.

Daly appears to make good contact (with the ball) and thankfully, nobody was hurt. As long as the ball didn't happen hit an innocent bystander. Without further ado, here's the latest installment of John Daly being John Daly:

(h/t @shanebacon)

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News & Tours

Sorry to be a downer, but the International team is getting worse

By Luke Kerr-Dineen

There was a time, in 2003, high off a breathtaking duel between Ernie Els and Tiger Woods, when people openly wondered if the Presidents Cup was a better competition than the Ryder Cup.
 
A European golfer hadn't won a major championship in more than four years (and wouldn't for another four), while the International team featured the PGA Tour's leading money winner, Vijay Singh, reigning Masters champion Mike Weir -- who probably ought to have won that year's PGA Tour Player of the Year -- and both Els and Retief Goosen, the former just a year removed from his third major victory, the latter playing the year preceding his second U.S. Open victory.
 
But 10 years on, the International team has regressed substantially, and has dragged with it the reputation of the Presidents Cup.

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Consider those at the top of the 2013 International team's roster. There's no denying Adam Scott is a top player and looks to be for the foreseeable future, but Jason Day, the team's next highest-ranked player, for all the potential he may show for tomorrow, today has just one PGA Tour victory to his name. Had Day been American, he would likely scrape into the No. 10 spot.
 
Els remains on the team, but his time among golf's elite is fading fast, while his countrymen Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel have each yet to win on the PGA Tour since their major victories in 2010 and 2011, respectively, despite more than 90 starts between them.

 
The 2003 team was stronger even towards the bottom of the order. It boasted the likes of Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby, K.J. Choi, Nick Price -- all multiple PGA Tour winners with proven track records in majors. In 2013, Angel Cabrera aside, the Hideki Matsuyama/Branden Grace/Graeme DeLaet/Richard Sterne combination may be full of potential, but as any college golf coach will explain, banking on potential is a dangerous game.
 
And while 2003 may have been an especially strong team, it was far from an anomaly. The 2007 team boasted six major winners, one more than the U.S. team, with another, Trevor Immelman, just months away from joining that circle. Two years later it claimed seven, again one more than the U.S. This year, it has five to the U.S.'s six.
 
It's hard to understand why the International team is getting worse. Perhaps it's the flowering of Europe's young talent. Perhaps it's just the natural order of things. But whatever the cause, spectators are left hoping their team of DeLaets and Sternes and Graces will propel them to victory for the first time since 1998. That very idea undercuts the party line of Presidents Cup apologists: "give it time, the competition is developing."
 
The truth is the competition isn't developing. We've gone from a point where the International team couldn't care less about the lack of Europeans on their team to today, where (if they were allowed) Europeans would fill seven of its roster spots, and that's before any captain's picks.
 
Now there's a tournament worth watching.



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News & Tours

Scott Langley a First Tee success story

By Tim Rosaforte

From the September 30 edition of Golf World Monday:

Scott Langley returned to Pebble Beach last week to offer testimony on what The First Tee can do for a life -- and a career.

Langley was a 2012 PGA Tour rookie who won the pro-junior event at the Champions Tour's Nature Valley First Tee Open in 2006. He also tied for low amateur honors in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, and to show how far he has come in the past seven years, Langley was invited to play with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Jay Haas at Cypress Point last Thursday, the day he was also scheduled to address The First Tee and Champions Tour participants at a Legends and Leaders dinner.

Related: Golf Digest's golfers who give back

Coming to the 18th hole, Langley was told by Sam Reeves, their host, that if he holed his second shot, it would mean tying the course record 63 held by, among others, Ben Hogan. From 125 yards out, Langley hit the flagstick with his shot and made a 2¿-footer for the 64.

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That night Langley looked out over the audience at The Beach Club, and said to the young men and women sitting nervously in their chairs, "I know how you feel. Seven years ago, I was sitting where you are."

Langley made an impression on the audience not only for the way his career panned out, but also for the way he embodies The First Tee's core values. He grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, a blue-collar golfer who hit scarred range balls off mats until a First Tee chapter was established.

"I wouldn't say I came from a poor background," Langley said. "But I didn't have a silver spoon in my mouth. I didn't have a chip on my shoulder, but I knew I had to work hard at everything I was going to get."

Among the 81 First Tee participants listening intently to Langley was Brittany Ferrante, a 5-foot-2, 100-pound, 16-year-old high school senior who plays No. 1 on the Walt Whitman High boys' team in Huntington Station on New York's Long Island.

Brittany didn't have a stable life at home the way Langley did. Her parents had issues. As part of her essay, she wrote about her mother attempting suicide. Constantly in between jobs as a civil engineer, her father went on the Internet and found a First Tee chapter near their home at Eisenhower Park.

"I have no idea where we would be [without the First Tee], but we wouldn't be in a good spot," Ferrante said, acknowledging her brother, Dominick, who made the trip as her caddie.

Related: Photos of Pebble Beach

She played alongside Rocco Mediate and although she did not make the cut, it was still the experience of a young lifetime. Golf Channel featured Brittany, even using her silhouette against the beach in the closing credits Friday. Billy Ray Brown made the comment on air, "Don't be fooled. She hits it miles."

Like Langley, Ferrante has aspirations of playing college golf, then pro golf. Plan B is to be an elementary school teacher or open a golf academy. She heads back to New York this morning with dreams of returning to Pebble Beach, maybe as head of a First Tee chapter.

"It wasn't what I expected," she said. "It was more."

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News & Tours

The 5 worst PGA Tour Player of the Year campaigns

By Alex Myers

This year's PGA Tour Player of the Year Award stirred plenty of debate. Whether you agree or disagree with Tiger Woods being voted the winner by his peers for a record 11th time, one thing is certain: His 2013 (five wins, including the Players and two WGC events, but zero majors) easily trumps many other winning seasons since the award was created in 1990. Here's a look back at the five worst campaigns to take home the Jack Nicklaus Trophy:

Related: The best shots of the 2013 golf season

5. Greg Norman (1995): The Shark captured his lone Player of the Year award after winning the Memorial, Hartford Open and NEC World Series of Golf, a precursor to the World Golf Championships. He led the PGA Tour's money list and won the Byron Nelson Award for lowest adjusted scoring average. A great year by a great player, but certainly a step below what Woods accomplished in 2013.

4. Jim Furyk (2010): Furyk's Tour Championship win gave him the FedEx Cup and made him the only player with three wins during the season. He didn't claim a major, though, and Matt Kuchar walked away with the Vardon Trophy and money title -- not factoring that $10 million bonus, of course.

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3. Wayne Levi (1990): A former World No. 1, Levi won four tournaments (Western Open, Canadian Open, Hartford Open and BellSouth Classic) in 1990, but still couldn't steal the money title from Greg Norman. And quality won out over quantity as Nick Faldo won the points-based PGA of America Player of the Year that year.

2. Luke Donald (2011): During Donald's career year he topped the money list and claimed the Vardon Trophy. However, he only won twice, at the Transitions and at Disney. Meanwhile, Keegan Bradley also won twice, including the PGA Championship, but only walked away with the Rookie of the Year Award. To be fair, Donald also played great in Europe, winning the European Tour money title. But his two wins on the PGA Tour were not exactly at big-time events.

1. Fred Couples (1991): Freddie gets the nod for having the worst campaign of anyone to win the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award and it's not even close. In 1991, he won twice, led the tour in scoring average and was third on the money list. Cory Pavin, who also won twice that year and finished first on the money list, took home the PGA of America's Player of the Year. What were Couples' wins? The St. Jude Classic and the B.C. Open. Um, yeah.

Related: Tiger, Jack and the major debate

So there you have it. Non-major winners take home the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award a lot. In fact, four of the past five winners didn't win a major that year.

As for Woods, this is the third such occasion he's pulled off the feat. While he didn't take a step closer to Jack Nicklaus' major mark in 2013, he certainly shouldn't feel bad about adding to his pile of Jack Nicklaus Trophies.

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Gear & Equipment

Five questions with caddie and jerky man Jeff King

jeff-king.jpgJeff King has caddied on the LPGA Tour and on the PGA Tour. Among the bags he has carried: Vaughn Taylor's and Luke List's. In his spare time he also makes a beef jerky that has become so popular it's now being marketed to the public. He answers five questions from our E. Michael Johnson.

Q: How did you get started?
A few years ago I bought a dehydrator. There was really no reason other than I wanted to try and make homemade beef jerky. It was the ultimate impulse purchase.

Q: When did you start making it for tour pros?
Two years ago at a Nationwide event I gave some to [player] Scott Brown, and he said I should sell it. He said, "If I can get three or four guys to buy it, will you make it?" From there it just took off. I've never actually ever had to ask anyone to buy it. They just do.

Q: How did you get it in the hands of Tiger Woods?
Lance Bennett caddies for Matt Kuchar, and they play a lot of practice rounds with Tiger and shared it with him. I actually just dropped off a batch to him at East Lake this week, which was the first time I hand-delivered it to him.

Q: So how much do you make selling it?
I sell it for $40 a pound, but I don't make all that much. I figured out once I was making about $3.70 an hour making jerky. But the looks on the guys' faces makes it worthwhile. The guys who like the Buffalo-style jerky say it's addicting and often buy four to six pounds at a time. That's pretty gratifying that they like it that much.

Q: Now that your jerky is available for anyone to buy at www.kingmadejerky.com, could you ever see hanging up your caddie bib?
I really can't. I caddie for the competition. I love it. Luke [List] and I have a goal to play in the Ryder Cup, and when I set a goal, I normally don't stop short of it. I'm not leaving until we reach it.


[Photo courtesy of Kingmade Jerky]

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Sync up your swing before you swing

fitness-friday-miguelangel-jimenez.jpgBy Ron Kaspriske

How many times have you began a round of golf stumbling out of the blocks, making double bogeys or worse on the first few holes? "I can't find my swing," you say.

Trust me, your swing is there. You've been swinging the club the same way for a long time. The problem is sometimes, particularly at the start of a round, you can't get your body to do it. The golf swing is produced by a sophisticated and coordinated sequence of body movements. Unless you prime your muscles before the round starts to make those movements happen in a synchronized and fluid fashion, you're going to struggle to hit the good shots you're accustomed to hitting. Try as it might, the mind can't override a body's inadequacies.

If you want to avoid a bad start, try activating the key muscles needed to make a swing that is functional and in sync. That doesn't mean performing a series of long-hold stretches to get limber. I believe long-hold stretches actually hinder your muscles from contracting quickly during an athletic movement. Instead, warm-up your muscles with a series of golf-related exercises that keep them pliable, but primed for action.

To see some pre-round exercises that I think will help you sync your swing, click on the video below. Remember to do them in both directions, when applicable, and never hold a stretched position for more than a couple of seconds. Now go make some birdies.



Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor for Golf Digest.



(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Gear & Equipment

Master Class: Custom wedge fitting with Bob Vokey

By E. Ashley Mayo

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Face facts: Bob Vokey (right) discusses wedge design on the range.

What if you could spend three hours with Bob Vokey, the longtime wedge designer for Titleist? Better yet, what if you could experience a three-hour wedge fitting with the master craftsman, then have him build wedges to your specifications? Now through 2014, anyone willing to spend $1,050 can have all of that.

As part of the Bob Vokey Hand Ground Experience at the Acushnet test facility in Oceanside, Calif., Vokey will take notes on grinds, bounce angles, yardage gaps and more. Then he'll build three wedges meeting your specs, including tour-only models. You can book one of these fittings by calling WedgeWorks customer service at 888-305-0582.


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News & Tours

The Syllabus: Welcome back

By Ryan Herrington

The top five signs that the fall college golf season has arrived:

5.) Multiple Tweets from players showing the day they received all their team clothing for the year, complete with pictures and the hashtag #ChristmasComesEarly

4.)
Phone calls from coaches asking why their players weren't in Golf World's top 50 players to watch lists start coming into the Wilton office.

3.) Golfstat's live scoring shows the next 18 tournaments are all sponsored by Golfweek.

2.) Reports from coaches about the results of their 13 round qualifiers for the opening tournament.

And 1.) The fall's first Syllabus is FINALLY posted on the Campus Insider blog.

(Come on, indulge my ego briefly here and nod your head in agreement.)

With that, turn the page and lets see what's up in the world of college golf.
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News & Tours

Scioto CC to dedicate Jack Nicklaus plaque

By Dave Shedloski

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Nicklaus took his first swings with a golf club at Scioto CC when he was just 10 years old. More than 60 years later, the club is commemorating the occasion by marking the ground where the greatest major championship performer got his start.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday (Oct. 2) officials of Scioto CC plan to unveil a plaque on the south end of the club's driving range that tells a little of the story of Nicklaus' introduction to the game. Nicklaus, 73, who will be in his hometown next week as the unofficial host of the Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village GC, is expected to attend the dedication.

Related: Jack Nicklaus in his own words

Winner of 18 professional major championships among 73 PGA Tour titles and two U.S. Amateur crowns, Nicklaus first began playing golf at Scioto in 1950 as a companion to his father, Charlie, who was rehabilitating an ankle injury. That summer, he began taking lessons in a junior clinic offered by the club's new head golf professional Jack Grout.

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The bronze plaque reads, in part: "In 1950 Jack Nicklaus hit his first golf shot from this location under the watchful eye of Jack Grout, beginning what would become the greatest career in golf history."

Greg Wolf, Scioto general manager, said that Nicklaus earlier this year helped pick out the location where the plaque is located. Wolf added that longtime Scioto member E. John Bishop and his son, Stuart, were the driving force behind the idea. The elder Bishop, who died last winter at age 93, authored the words on the plaque.

"Mr Bishop always had great appreciation for the history of this club, and this was something he really wanted to see happen," Wolf said. "He also wanted to honor Jack Grout. It's a nice thing that we probably needed to do sooner."

Related: Jack Nicklaus' best driving tips

The Nicklaus Plaque dedication is the latest gesture the club has made to recognize its special relationship with the Golden Bear. Photos of a young Nicklaus and other pieces of memorabilia are scattered throughout Scioto's remodeled clubhouse, and Nicklaus in 2008 joined forces with fellow course designer Dr. Michael Hurdzan in a renovation of the layout originally rendered by Donald Ross. Nicklaus will serve as the honorary chairman when Scioto hosts the 2016 U.S. Senior Open, scheduled in conjunction with the club's centennial anniversary.

"This is where I grew up, this where my roots are," Nicklaus said in 2008. "Scioto is where I played all my golf as a youngster. It's always going to be a very special place to me. I am proud to have grown up here."

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